Here come video yearbooks 2.0

Video yearbooks, if still not exactly a commonplace on the education scene, are certainly not the high-tech innovation they once were. Even so, some schools this season are taking the video yearbook to a whole new level, preparing for that stroll down memory lane via montage slideshows and wireless delivery to student picture phones. It’s video yearbook version 2.0, you might say.

As a supplement to their traditional print yearbooks, many students this spring are taking home slickly produced digital versions for their computers and DVD players. These second-generation high-tech supplements include slide shows set to music, video clips of school year highlights, and personal messages from fellow classmates.

“Imagine you click on a senior picture, and there is a video farewell behind it. Imagine you click on a picture of a football player, and he’s running in for a touchdown,” suggested Lisa Baird, president of YoDVD (Yearbook on DVD), a company with headquarters in Springfield, Mo.

“It’s taking the yearbook and having it come alive,” she said.

That’s not to say the print yearbook is dead. Most schools opting for the digital alternative are using it in addition to print–a little something extra that reflects this generation’s appetite for new technology.

“These kids just think this way. These kids think in terms of video. They think in terms of motion. They think digitally,” said John Lund, president of Yearbook Interactive, a Salt Lake City company that has joined with Jostens, a giant in the high school memento industry that specializes in yearbooks, class rings, and other keepsakes. Together, they’ve offered yearbooks on CD-ROMs and DVDs for about five years.

Both companies report this has been their biggest-selling year. YoDVD, which has produced digital yearbooks in the Midwest since 2001, had 27 school accounts this year, Baird said. She’s set to go national this fall and expects more than 50 schools to sign on. The companies see nothing but growth in the future.

“I believe, in the next two years, the vast majority of print yearbooks will have a digital supplement, either a CD-ROM or a DVD, snapped into their covers,” Lund said.

Schools that have gone digital typically have their yearbook staff or audio/visual clubs produce the content. The students work with software developed by the vendors, scanning in photos and splicing in video to create as simple or as elaborate a digital yearbook as they choose. The schools ship their files off to the companies for final production and packaging.

For the more sophisticated video yearbooks, the offerings range from a point-and-click musical slide show to a movie-style feature with flashy photo montages and sharply edited video of signature events, such as the senior prom or the homecoming football game.

For many schools, the digital supplements give a home to the scores of unused images that don’t make it into most print yearbooks. And they provide a keepsake of the most noteworthy events in the spring, when it’s usually too late to squeak past the print yearbook’s deadline.

“The big advantage is that all the big senior events are on the CD,” said Sarah Britton, 17, yearbook editor-in-chief at Conard High School. The West Hartford, Conn., school has produced a CD-ROM supplement through Jostens for the last four years.

“Things like graduation and senior prom and the senior picnic don’t make it in the book,” Britton said. “With the CD, it’s still part of the yearbook, even if it isn’t [in] the yearbook itself.”

Britton said her fellow students enjoy the digital version. Her older sisters, now in college, still pop theirs into the computer when they’re looking for a quick burst of nostalgia or a diversion from a term paper.

At press time, Conard was still putting together its CD, planned largely as a slide show that allows students to flip through virtual pages and scroll through sections. Judi Duquette, the school’s yearbook adviser, said she’d still like to slip in some video footage of upcoming graduation events, maybe even a farewell message from Conard’s principal. Students can expect to get the supplements in the mail by July.

The companies said the schools opting for these high-tech yearbooks cross the socio-economic spectrum, from urban to suburban districts. The cost is typically folded into a package, priced together with the print yearbook. Conard’s students, for example, paid $77 for the combo. And Baird said her two-hour YoDVD creations generally run from $5 to $15 each.

But will changing technology one day render the digital yearbooks unusable? Not likely, to hear the video yearbook companies tell it.

Both predict a long life for digital. In fact, Lund said his company is working on technology to allow students to view the yearbooks on their cell phones.

As technology evolves, he said, there’ll always be a way to transfer between formats, just as can be done today with video.

So, will this mean the demise of the conventional high school yearbook?

“Personally, I think that would be sad. But then, I’m from a generation that is used to [the print version]. And we don’t know what the upcoming generation’s expectations are going to be,” said Baird, who discourages schools from going completely digital.

“If they can do [the two versions] together, it’s the best of both worlds,” Baird said. “To take away the traditional yearbook from a group of parents who are used to having that book come home … We want the program to be successful, not a problem for the schools.”

Duquette suspects students will always want something they can pull off a bookshelf and hold in their hands to flip through. “It’s instant gratification,” said Duquette, who is also Conard’s career education coordinator. “You can take the book and open it and look at it. You don’t need [any other tools] to do that.”

Britton also gets the sense her fellow classmates still prefer the print versions.

When they were distributed, she said, students clamored for their copies. “Everyone just literally had their heads buried in the books,” she said.

Companies like YoDVD do tuck an autograph book into their DVD cases, but students for a long time to come are likely to be eager to get every inch of their print yearbook pages inked with messages from teachers and classmates: “This year was awesome!” and “Don’t ever change!”


Yearbook Interactive


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